So you've shelled out the big bucks to buy that whacked-out widebody kit, dropped numerous Gs on installation and a custom paint job. Now you gotta keep it factory-fresh. Detailing your ride is key in keeping the jaws dropping. It is also a way of protecting one of the biggest investments made to your custom car: the paint.
Swirls in the paint are the archenemy and there are two classifications of swirls-cobwebs and buffer swirls. Cobwebs are micro scratches on the surface. They appear as circular scratches around where the sun reflects off the paint. A buffer swirl is a deeper scratch made by a misused rotary buffer. They are deeper than cobwebs and in worse-case scenarios appear like translucent hologram-like swirls.
The key here is a prevent defense. You need to identify the cause and affect the repairs to your finish. Then avoid the behavior that caused the swirls in the first place.
First off, products do not cause swirls; poor washing and drying techniques do. The scratches are generally caused by dirt or other particles being rubbed into the finish. Dirt on your wash cloth or embedded in drying towels are the two biggest culprits.
Silence The Swirls
Washing should be a two-bucket proposition; one bucket for soap, one for rinsing. This keeps the dirt in the rinse bucket, and out of the soap bucket where the wash cloth can reabsorb it and rub it into the paint. Use multiple wash cloths or mitts; one for upper panels, one for lower panels and one for the wheels. Start with the roof and wash your way down. Do not use dish-washing soap because it strips away wax and promotes oxidation.
When it comes to drying, use micro-fiber towels. Terry towels come in too many different flavors; their thread count is their key to softness. Further, regardless of the towel's construction they should be laundered after each use and stored in Zip-Loc bags to resist contamination between washes.
Hiding or removing swirls is a matter of choice. Some products are designed to hide swirls while others remove them from the finish. The keys here are material removal and method of application. Some hand-applied products merely fill in the swirl marks. This is only a temporary fix as the elements and regular washings will remove the glaze and the swirls will reappear again.
Meguiar's ScratchX is a clearcoat-safe, hand-applied swirl removal product that has a low particulate makeup so it removes very little material/paint from the finish and therefore is only good for light cobweb swirls. Mark off a section of the car (by a strip of tape or a body line) and work this section to ensure the product is having the expected effect. Why do the whole car only to discover you need a stronger product?
Professional Speed Glaze is the next step up the ladder. Applying this product requires a dual-action polisher. Speed Glaze is more abrasive than ScratchX so it removes more material and evens out the finish while removing deeper scratches. Use multiple thin coats in lieu of one thick coat. Be sure the polishing pad is contacting the surface before turning on the polisher.
Here is where we draw the line. If a dual-action polisher doesn't get the job done a rotary polisher is the next option. We recommend rotary work be done by a professional. A moment's distraction can lead to permanent damage to your car's paint.
Post Polish Procedure
Once the finish is revitalized, wax it. Be sure your applicator pad is clean and apply two or three coats of wax to the car. This will enrich the luster of the paint and protect it from the elements.
The bottom line is to get the finish in tip-top shape once and keep it that way by performing proper finish maintenance.
While we used Meguiar's products here, Mothers' FX line is also a good option. Beyond the brand name, technique in the usage of the product and breaking bad habits are the keys to the long-term health of your car's finish. So get it right the first time.